There was a lot of laughter and gaiety last night. I was at a celebratory dinner for the Both Hands organization a very unique and loving effort to help widows in need while also raising funds for people who are wishing to adopt a child, but need a little help to get through the process. To date this effort championed by JT and Sara Olson has organized 841 projects, the repair and restorative work for 928 widows and facilitated the adoption of 1054 beautiful children in need of a loving home. These endeavors are occurring throughout the United States. People give money to Both Hands for each project. The workers and materials are donated and the money that is raised goes to facilitate the adoption of the orphans.
Our bible study guys were there. We’ve been together for close to 25 years. JT is in this group. We’re an eclectic bunch, with a retired CFO, a marketing guru, a country songwriter (ASCAP Songwriter Of The Year), a financial advisor, and an executive working with non-profit organizations, a musician/producer/songwriter whiz .and myself. We talk about everything from football, national news and spiritual questions to personal struggles we face from week to week. It’s nothing to abandon the scheduled study if one of us is hurting.. It is a safe place to blow off steam and be transparent about our life and our views. Nothing shared leaves the room. We challenge each other on topics, but always walk away with no laundry left at the end of our together time.
As we sat and listened to the program, I was overwhelmed by the vision the Olson’s had. All funds go to the projects. Administrative costs and salaries are raised separately from private support. Even the dinner was provided by an anonymous donor. But probably the most moving element to me was JT’s story.
He was a corn fed, farm-bred boy raised on land near Harpers Ferry, Iowa. When he was 12 years old, , he returned home one evening after playing at his friends farm. His parents were out on a special date to celebrate their 16th wedding anniversary. Because he was dirty from the day’s activities with his buddy, he immediately headed for the basement to get cleaned up before he came upstairs. As he was getting ready, , his brother came downstairs and JT asked him, “Are mom and dad home yet?” What he was about to hear next would be a life altering reply. “Mom and dad are dead. They were killed in a car accident about an hour ago. “ JT stared into the puffy red eyes of his brother, who turned around and slowly walked back upstairs. A twinge of fear and a whirlwind of emotions came as a flood. What were they gonna do? This was a family of five children, and now there was no one to tend to them. Lost, ambushed by a powerful blow from life’s harsh mysteries, JT sat there in that basement all by himself, the most all by himself he’d ever felt in his whole young life. Tender. Tender he was,…and hope….well hope was as the faint sound of a bleating lamb wandering around in a field… far…far….far away.
As JT recalled that dark time in his life, the emotion of the memory echoed in his voice. Even though long ago, it was evident that the memory was ever close to his heart as he spoke. He went on, “So I know very well what it means to be orphaned.” There was a momentary pause…as his voice faltered. I believed him, and I understood this was not just a nice thing he and Sara were doing for these people. It was so much more than that.
But here comes the good part. Without blinking an eye, his uncle took all five children into his home and raised them. He was 33 and had three children of his own. This was an incredible sacrifice on his part. As I sat listening, the scripture, “ No greater love than this that someone lay down his life for his friends,” took on new meaning for me just then. JT went on to say, “ So I also understand what it means to be rescued.”
At that moment, I was struck with the thought that this was such a clear picture of God’s meticulous weave. The evening in essence was showing me how God was using JT and that frightening night in Iowa for his purposes .. and with Both Hands, revealing how something so terrible can be made so beautifully bountiful.
“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”